Orioles need to keep shopping past Christmas

I raced downstairs this morning, trying not to trip in my footie pajamas and hoping that Santa filled my stocking with all the goodies that I requested while sitting on his lap, but he didn't come through for me.

Maybe I freaked him out by facing the other way.

I was totally dissed by the jolly fat man with the white beard and cookie crumbs on the front of his shirt.

No Bronson Arroyo or A.J. Burnett. No Kendrys Morales. Heck, no Nelson Cruz, who was included with the socks and underwear.

Then I realized that maybe, just maybe, Santa thought it was odd for a baseball writer to ask for players. The Orioles could use them more than me.

I should have just asked for a bike or, better yet, a Red Ryder BB gun.

I'd put out my own eye for one big free agent signing by the Orioles this winter.

I understand that teams don't normally react to fan angst or media criticism, but the Orioles need to make a statement here after closer Grant Balfour slipped through their fingers.

OK, they opened up their hands, but you know what I mean.

They underwent major construction over the past few years to begin repairing their image - I almost got tangled in the yellow tape - and now they're getting bashed at every turn. Agents and doctors and reporters are ganging up on them. And it doesn't matter if they were right in the past with their about-faces on free agents after the physicals - check Jeremy Burnitz's career path or Aaron Sele's ERAs after those two seasons in Seattle - the Balfour mess has left a huge stain.

If they were ever inclined to go against their rule of not signing free agent pitchers to four- or five-year deals, this would be the appropriate time. Roll the dice. Take a chance. Run with scissors.

I don't sense that there's a huge market for Morales. Get him to Baltimore and start him every night at designated hitter.

I keep saying that Cruz doesn't make much sense to me, given his defensive limitations and how he bats from the right side, but I don't care anymore. He'd be a presence in the middle of the lineup, and if he got starts in left field, David Lough could be a late-inning replacement.

That would be a bold move. That might shut up the critics who say they won't spend and only want to dumpster dive.

I'm fine with Tommy Hunter closing if the money saved on Jim Johnson, and now Balfour, is used to toss a bone to one of the big dogs in free agency.

Hunter said he isn't overly concerned about the Orioles' offseason thus far, but he also isn't clear on their direction.

"I think we have a good team," Hunter said "We've got a lot of solid players. It's just... I don't know. I wish that I could know the approach they're taking. They're waiting for guys to mature. Maybe that's what they're doing. You never know.

"Those guys are a lot smarter than us sometimes. I guess you could say that. I don't know how to put that one. You can try to put it better than that."

Hunter laughed, and I was reminded why he's one of my favorite Orioles to interview.

"I wish that I could tell you what they're thinking," he continued. "Sometimes, the moves you don't understand, there are other reasons for them. But that's not your job. As a player, your job is to go out there and make the best of what you have.

"It's going to be a team out there. It's going to be 25 guys. You just find 25 guys who have a common goal. Once you get that part finalized, 25 guys on the same page, then baseball is pretty easy. You set your goals high, which they are in Baltimore. They have been the past couple years."

Two straight winning seasons that don't come with a free pass, as far as fans here are concerned. Show them the money, and then spend it.

"It was pretty disappointing to not make the playoffs this year, and the year before, it was disappointing to not make the World Series," Hunter said. "We thought we had a legitimate shot. We just had a couple games put us away, kind of, and that's how the story unfolded and how it ended.

"This year, we had a couple games slip away and we kind of fell off toward the end. We didn't win a lot of those one-run games. Hopefully, next year we revert back to the previous 2012 season and start winning the close games. I'm ready.

"The Yankees made a big splash, Boston signed a couple of their guys back. It's going to be another competitive year in the American League East, to say the least. We've just got to be ready to play, man. Put your dukes up. We've got to go to war, got to fight."

Got to make the necessary moves so that it's a fair fight.

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